A few things for Votran to consider
Votran's fixed-route and paratransit services are both flawed. I am a very dissatisfied customer, and would like to know what recourse I have regarding the following situations:
No. 1- Identify your vehicles and act in the best interest of the handicapped. On Friday, Aug. 24, I had a reservation for a pick up at my home. I was advised by both the man who set up my service and repeatedly by your dispatchers to wait at the front courtyard because I live in a gated community. I did everything as instructed. The appointment was for 10 a.m. When no Votran vehicle arrived by 10:25 a.m., I called your dispatcher who told me that I was not there and did not live at the given address because someone told their driver so. Hello. Check my driver's license. It turns out you sent a man in a Southern Komfort taxi who couldn't figure out the woman with the walker at the entrance was the passenger. Your dispatcher refused to send the cab back once the mistake was unraveled. No one ever told me a taxi might show up instead of a Votran-identified vehicle. I missed a job interview thanks to Votran's confusion and disregard. It's tough to find any kind of job in my condition and you just made matters worse.
When I called and asked for a supervisor, the dispatcher put me on hold interminably.
No. 2 - Use common sense in unusual situations and act in the best interest of the handicapped. On Thursday, Aug. 23, a friend took me to Walmart in Port Orange. The friend had to leave in a hurry. I said no problem, I will catch a bus. I asked the driver to be dropped off at Swallow Tail Drive as other drivers had done previously, and he said it was against the rules. I walk with a walker and it was loaded with groceries. I explained I could not drag the walker across the 20-foot swath that was soggy to boot at Village Trail. He basically said it was not his problem. I asked him to write down the customer service number and he refused. I asked him to help me with the walker and he refused. He dislodged the ramp on an angle instead of flat to the ground. A man on the bus offered to help and he struggled across the grass. I slid out off the bus on what was more like a slide than a ramp.
When I called the office, the representative said the driver had acted properly, and my response was that surliness is not proper. I asked to find out how to request a bus stop at Swallow Tail near McDonald's and she said Votran has nothing to do with that; I would have to call Port Orange. I said someone in her building had to know the answer to this question, and she said she didn't have time. I said I would wait until Friday.
Meanwhile, I called Port Orange with the question and they sent me right back to Votran. I left a message for the Volusia County Manager and got no answer.
I called the Votran representative back and after some phone tag, we connected. She suddenly was on the case and said someone is being sent out to determine if the bus stop I requested is feasible. She said she would keep me posted.
No. 3 - Side issues: As a frequent rider, let me add that bus shelters are few and far between; the Plexiglas shelters could suffocate you in the heat; many of the bus stop benches are covered with red ants. I take my life in my hands just going the short way from Village Trail to Swallow Tail. The speed limit is too high on Village Trail, there is no crosswalk from the condos to the bus stop, and the sidewalks are cracked and littered with palm fronds, etc. Walkers barely ambulate over grass, so getting to the sidewalks is difficult.
Maureen Gibbons, Port Orange
Response from Steven Sherrer, Votran general manager: Votran has responded directly to Ms. Gibbons to apologize for her experience. Votran staff has taken immediate action to research the details of this rider's experience and is prepared to take corrective action if warranted.
Votran customers should expect and receive safe, courteous and reliable service from our company and its associates. Please be assured that wherever possible we will take appropriate action to ensure this occurs.
While all regular fixed route buses are accessible to disabled passengers, there are many roadside conditions that make it difficult for disabled passengers to navigate to or from our bus stops. Even though there are sidewalks in the area where Ms. Gibbons lives, they are situated far away from the edge of the road where the bus must stop to board and deboard passengers.
Votran staff participated in a Florida Department of Transportation site inspection of this section of Dunlawton Avenue in July 2011 to identify transit challenges for disabled passengers that FDOT should address in their next construction improvement on that particular section of road.
There are more than 2,000 bus stops throughout the county with varying roadside conditions, in both urban and rural situations. In many places, it is not possible for disabled passengers to access the fixed route system. Votran Gold is the door-to-door service that provides public transportation for passengers who cannot use the regular fixed route bus. Passengers using Votran Gold are escorted from their door way to the vehicle. Ms. Gibbons has already gone through the eligibility process and been approved to use Votran Gold services. Votran Gold performs approximately 1,000 trips per day, with about 40 percent of the service completed under contract by other providers of transportation services. We did, unfortunately, fail to deliver our standard of service to Ms. Gibbons for her Votran Gold trip and we will take necessary steps to help prevent the same inconveniences from occurring in the future.
I would like to see the Delta Queen in New Smyrna Beach
I applaud Dan Smith for his writing on the Delta Queen and New Smyrna Beach in the Aug. 24 edition.
I agree it would be a beautiful addition to the little seaside community.
My wife and I go to New Smyrna often (I have lived in the area for 33 years) and truly enjoy the small local shops and eateries. We enjoy history and being able to partake in it.
We hope the city does not make this a political thing, just an enjoyable thing. I would love to sit on deck, enjoy a beverage and eat something tasty and dream a lazy dream.
Now, doesn't that sound good?
George Hilbert, South Daytona
Does history repeat itself?
Our country is in tough shape right now with the most controversial election ever. The candidates are the most childish acting adults ever to run for president of our nation. Our government departments can't get along; state and federal officials are at each other's throats. States are so diverse and they are losing control of their laws, their people and their rights that make them the state they are. States' rights must be considered and that is something the federal government seems less and less willing to do.
Back in history, before President Abraham Lincoln, our country was going through the same thing when people started moving west during the Gold Rush. The states were going to split and create two countries, which was encouraged by England. When Lincoln came along, he never said he agreed with either side, that it was each state's decision, but he did want to keep the nation whole. The rest is history, but even back then the president realized some things are a state's issue.
Today, about 154 years later, we are having a similar issue with states arguing over the health care, Medicare issues. Debating over illegal immigration also has been a big topic. Welfare fraud and the abuse of food stamps are coming up in several states. Voting laws and regulations are a big topic with the coming election, with many states not wanting either presidential candidate on the ballot.
This isn't what our country is about, we have lost our true freedom to live in peace, freedom of religion, our beliefs and rights as individuals. Our states are being forced to give up their individual rights of choice to come under the control of one man, one law. We are here because we want our choice of religion, beliefs, voting rights and to be an individual person, not a robot.
Our founding fathers issued many warnings about the dangers of growing and intrusive government, which they sought to control with our Constitution. Thomas Jefferson was one of the best when he said, "Most bad government has grown out of too much government."
With the coming election and some states rising up against the forced new illegal immigration laws, over the possible next president, Obamacare and being forced to add extra Medicaid, we are going back in circles for everything that our country fought for. We are losing that freedom our forefathers gave us. We need changes in our government that this election isn't prepared for and the candidates cannot handle. This election has people who are too immature, greedy, set in their ways from long term positions, have wealth and are seeking power and control. Our country cannot and will not survive on those terms. This past year those in the position to do so have not made any decisions to turn this country around for the better. Our economy is worse than ever with a debt that we will never see end. We are so dependent on every other country, except our own. Our jobs are overseas, we import most items and that includes our food.
So, now we have gone back further in history, when we depended on England while we settled in this country. Who to elect in November doesn't matter if they are more worried about acting childish and not telling us how they will improve our great country. We have more hunger, more homeless, more crime and more jobless than ever. We have politicians who cannot pass laws that will help improve our nation, yet feel they should be re-elected. They have not done anything in the last four years for us, so how can we depend on them for another four. We are going to be leaving the biggest, heaviest burden on our next two generations, who will not be educated enough to take control. That generation is too dependent on welfare now and cuts in education have not helped.
I'm sure that if our flag had a heart, it would be broken by now from our selfish greed.
Sheila Dillon, Port Orange